Back in 2007, My DNA Fragrance began its production of perfumes and colognes engineered from customers' genetic make-up. You swab yourself, send in the sample, and wait for the experts to ... well, actually, it's not clear what those perfume experts are doing after you mail that sample in. Their press release says it's a "personalized fragrance ... engineered from your genetic code," but what does that mean? Are our favorite smells written into our genetic code, and if so, can they be determined? Is that what the perfume will be made up of? Or does the genetic code that you submit to them instead serve as a map for randomly selected, unrelated scents? "She's got blue eyes, so go with vanilla, and she's a blonde, so, ... throw some lemon in there."
The company is currently launching a new twist on their product: the Antiquity line. My DNA Fragrance has teamed up with celebrity hair collector John Reznikoff, and they're using these hair samples to create DNA perfumes based off of the genetic make-up of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, MJ, and more.
This sounded fishy to us, so we decided to find out if their claims had any scientific basis. I shot an e-mail over to Boston University genetics researcher Richard H. Myers, who has a history of debunking claims made by cosmetologists who engineer products from DNA.
"Hey, Dad," I said. "I need your genetics expertise." As usual, he was happy to comply.
According to my father, "To use hair for the analysis of DNA (paternity tests, crime investigations, etc), or in this case, to create a cosmetic product, the hair must be uprooted. The hair from clippings, or which falls out, or found in combs for example, isn't useful for these analyses, as it doesn't contain DNA. It’s very, very unlikely that this source of celebrity hair has the follicle, but even if a few were found, it’s not at all clear what would be done to create a fragrance from that information."
So apparently, all of those celebrity locks of hair won't do My DNA Fragrance a bit of good -- that is, if they're actually using DNA to make these fragrances in the first place. Makes us wonder what we'd be paying for, exactly.
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